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Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007 06:59 am

Outward bound

Exodus of Illinoisans may be slowing, study shows

Untitled Document What do Illinois, Florida, and California have in common? More folks left those states last year than moved into them, says St. Louis-based United Van Lines after tracking 227,254 household shipments in 2006. United’s 30th annual Migration Study illustrates the kind of mobility pattern the country’s been shifting toward for years — an exodus from the Northeast and upper Midwest to the sunnier, warmer climates of the Southeast and Southwest — but the 2006 study revealed a few surprising exceptions. For the first time since the company began its tracking, in 1977, Florida waved goodbye to more people than it greeted, following in the footsteps of California, where outbound shipments have outpaced inbound ones since 2002. New residents flocked instead to North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. The rugged West also held clear appeal, with Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Montana each staking a claim on mobile households. Michigan and North Dakota topped the list of hemorrhaging states, followed by Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The bleak picture is brightened by the fact that both Wisconsin and Illinois seem to have stemmed the outflow just a bit. Wisconsin experienced its lowest outbound rate since 2000, United says, and Illinois logged 55.7 percent outbound residents compared to 44.3 percent inbound — its best numbers since 1990. 
Some of the credit for the slowdown of departing families could go to the record-low unemployment rate of 4.1 percent and recent efforts by the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to attract and keep big employers, such as United Airlines, so residents don’t leave in search of jobs, says DCEO spokesman Mark Harris. Last year, the state’s monthly job growth led the country in April and July, “which has never happened twice before in one year in recorded history,” Harris says. “Since January, 2004, Illinois has gained nearly 158,000 new jobs, which leads the Midwest, so from an economic-development standpoint the Illinois economy is in a good place.”
The state is strategically located for shipping by way of rail, road, water, and air — a top selling point for Triumph Foods, which will add 1,000 jobs at a new processing plant in East Moline, Harris says. Schneider National, one of the world’s largest transportation and logistics companies, will create 400 new jobs over the next two years at a new operating center in the Gateway Commerce Center, in Edwardsville. Plus the state has nine offices around the world in such places as Brussels, South Africa, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and the Middle East to recruit and attract business. In late 2004, such efforts persuaded Astellas Pharma Inc. — a company created from the merger of two leading Japanese pharmaceuticals — to establish its North American headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Harris says. So when Illinoisans do pack their bags, where do they go?
The United study says most Illinois residents chose a wide range of destinations: California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington. At the same time, Illinois gained the most newcomers from California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and New York.
Joan Villa is a freelance writer based in White Heath.
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